We have famously covered mostly all topics of health and how exercise relate to supporting a healthy body and brain. However, we have never discussed the function of a specific organ so I thought, with holiday festivities right around the corner, that now would be a good time to dive into the functions of probably the 3rd most important organ in the body after the brain and heart: the liver.
The liver is actually the heaviest/largest organ in the body weighing in at a whopping 3.08 pounds. So, for those of you who love to live by the number on the scale, remember the next time you get on it that 3 pounds of that number is attributed to your liver alone!
The liver has a multitude of functions. It’s responsible for filtering your blood, processing the molecules of macronutrients, storing energy, and even mobilizing energy for exercise. The liver receives blood from two places: the hepatic artery (which attaches to the heart) and the hepatic portal vein (which attaches to your large intestine). These two delivery sources fill the liver with nutrients that it has to go through and sort for its specific intention.
Now, your body and the liver of course, is the foremost expert in adaptation. We’ve discussed this ad nauseum. Give your body a task over and over and it’s going to become the greatest at that task. However, as we’ve discussed, the body will shut down other functions to perform better at this task. There is no wasted energy in your body.
So, you eat something, the stomach digests it and the nutrients that come from whatever you ate get put in their proper place by the liver. If it’s protein, which becomes amino acids, the liver can store it in muscle tissue for protein synthesis (muscle building) or it can be stored in the liver itself and converted into glycogen to be used later on as an energy source. If it’s fat, it becomes a fatty acid and that can be stored in the liver as well and converted to glycogen much like protein. However, most fatty acids end up staying in the gut biome to help with the absorption of vitamins and minerals. For example, if you eat 120 calories of almonds, your body only stores about 30 calories of it.
Which leaves…you guessed it…carbohydrates. Everyone’s favorite. Now, the problem with carbohydrates is that there’s a number of them that can be ingested. There’s glucose, galactose, and fructose. Now, there are also combinations of carbohydrates such as sucrose, maltose, and lactose. For the purposes of this very important blog post that I would like to keep relatively short, we’re only going to discuss the process behind glucose and fructose.
So, you eat a carbohydrate, it hits the liver as either glucose or fructose. IF it’s glucose alone, it gets processed by the liver as such and gets stored in muscle tissue as glycogen OR gets stored in fat tissue as fat. If it’s glucose in the form of fruit or vegetable, there’s a strong portion of it that is fiber which does not get processed by the liver. It stays behind in the gut biome to help with the digestion of other foods.
Ok. Fructose. Here’s the problem with fructose and alcohol for that matter. Fructose gets ingested and ZERO of it gets processed by the gut biome. It goes straight to the liver. It gets in the liver and the liver immediately has to filter it out because it’s a toxin. It immediately gets it out and stores it as fat tissue. Now, because it’s a toxin the liver also has to be sure that the remaining part of it that the body has no use for gets filtered through the blood into the kidneys and makes into our waste product. Now, why did I link this to alcohol? Well, because the exact same thing happens in the liver with alcohol. Alcohol gets ingested and completely bypasses the gut. It hits the liver as ethanol, which is also a toxin. The liver has to immediately get it out of there because if it stays in the liver, like fructose, it will damage the liver and scar it. A majority of it gets stored as fat tissue and the rest the liver has to spend time filtering through the blood to make sure it gets to the kidneys so it can be converted into waste product.
Sooooooooo, I wrote this lengthy blog post about the liver really as just an indirect way to further tell you about the dangers of sugar and alcohol. Be empowered with the information, and make good choices. The end.